What was Luther’s world like? Very different from ours in many ways no doubt, but we would recognize the beginnings of our own “civilized” life. By the 1400’s, advancements in communication, exploration, capitalism, humanism, science, and nationalism were creating upheaval in traditional ways of life. And because the Church was the main force for communicating with God, for stability, for order and tradition, the Church began to be impacted by these changes.
Enter Martin Luther, monk. As was the custom of the day, notices were posted on the door of the church for all to see, so that’s what the story says he did. 95 Theses, written by Luther as statements for discussion had two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds. Although these ideas had been advanced before by others, Martin Luther codified them at time ripe for religious reformation.
The system of indulgences, or buying merit so that one’s soul could exit purgatory, was Luther’s main target. The money spent by the people to purchase these merits was sent to the church in Rome.
The result of the posting of the 95 Theses eventually became the Protestant Reformation. For Protestants, purgatory is not necessary because Jesus Christ is sufficient.